I once heard a tagline to a movie that went something like this: the greatest journeys are the ones that bring you home. In the context of the movie, it reflected the struggles and ultimate coming-of-age experience of a young man of Indian-immigrant parents. I’ve always been a sucker for movie trailers. Something about the grand scope of a preview, where you take a step back and see the big picture, one broad stroke of the story set to dramatic music (of course!) makes my creative spirit say YES! So it’s not unusual for quotes from previews to stick with me. This particular line is one that comes back to me again and again, especially whenever we travel. And although I’m not in the midst of a coming-of-age moment or haven’t even traveled all that extensively, I truly believe that the greatest adventures are the ones that bring you home, both literally and metaphorically.
If you’ve ever traveled with a baby, you may have enjoyed the unique experience, upon your return, of seeing a little soul recognize home. We recently came back from a trip that, although only 10 days long, was a record for our little guy. He was a great traveler and loved tasting new foods, exploring new spaces and listening to new sounds (hello Irish pub), but we could tell by the end, he was antsy for the old familiar (or more specifically, his toys and space to exercise his latest skill: crawling!). It was late when we landed in Minneapolis, probably about 10:30pm by the time we unlocked the front door. But the light of recognition that popped on in his tired eyes as I carried him through the house could mean only one thing: he was happy to be home. In his nursery I showed him his beloved cow painting on the wall, we played with the felt balls hanging from his mobile, and he lay down on the soft sheep skin we use on his floor. He kept looking at us with what I can only explain as Christmas-morning giddiness. Priceless. And all from seeing the familiar, from coming home.
I love traveling. love love love it. And I realize that’s a whole lotta love to pack into one sentence (albeit an incomplete sentence – grammar police!). Experiencing a new place isn’t just about seeing the sights and marking off items on your to-do list, it’s about pausing and noticing another way of life. In Ireland we learned to say “thanks a mill,” and “breakie” (read: thanks a million and breakfast). We noticed that it is not uncommon for cattle and sheep to have the prime real estate, with seaside views, on the edge of cliffs, or perched on a hilltop overlooking rugged beaches. We walked into storefronts that claimed to be both a hardware store and bar, only to discover that one was more an excuse for the other to be open at 10am. We savored hearty meals in roadside taverns and were humbled by the generosity of waitresses and bartenders (tangent: a waitress offered to watch our child so we could enjoy our meal, and a bartender invited Henry behind the bar so he’d have a reason to come back some day).
It’s definitely not a unique statement to say that enjoying a new culture helps one discover and appreciate their own habits and life. But it’s true. Whenever we travel and take time to notice the little things about a culture, we always end up content and ready to come home. Somehow the act of spreading your wings for a while is the best way to put down your roots again. Of course there are some things about other cultures we hate to say goodbye to and roll our eyes once again stateside (cobblestone streets will trump a four-lane highway and stripped-malled parking lot any day). But the simple act of eating, sleeping and moving like those who live in this new-to-you place is tiring, both mentally and physically, and although we love (almost) every moment of it, we crave routine and the familiar by the end. Isn’t it nice to be happy to come home?
Of course on some trip, the adventure itself is “coming home.” My grandparents recently took their five grown kids (sans spouses and children) on a trip to Norway where they journeyed far up north to where my grandma’s grandfather grew up. Not only did they stand on the front porch, they enjoyed a great salmon dinner with the distant relatives who now live there. (You can read more about their adventures abroad on the blog my Grandpa set up. I’ll highlight this post, written by my uncle, because it’s hilarious and a touching read for anyone who is/has/knows a mother).
Thank you Ireland for being a gracious host and to all of the cheerful people who made us feel at home on the road.
Where have you traveled this summer and were you happy that your adventure eventually brought you home? While writing this post, I realized that “the adventures that bring you home” was really what I was thinking of when I came up with the new title to my blog. Perhaps I’ll have to steal it as a tag line! Can you do that? I mean, a quote from a movie trailer isn’t really a quote, is it?